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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Suicide bombers kill 8 in attack on church in Pakistan

Security forces killed one attacker but the other was able to enter the church in Quetta

A man and a woman react as they leave the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan after an attack on December 17, 2017. Naseer Ahmed / Reuters
A man and a woman react as they leave the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan after an attack on December 17, 2017. Naseer Ahmed / Reuters

Two suicide bombers killed at least eight people and wounded 42 others at a church in south-western Pakistan on Sunday.

The attack came as hundreds of worshippers were attending services at the church in Quetta. One assailant was killed by security forces at the entrance to the church while the other made it inside, said Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for Balochistan province.

Provincial police chief Moazzam Ansari said the attacker who made it inside was wounded and unable to reach the main building. "Otherwise the loss of lives could have been much higher."

Quetta police chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema said a search was under way for two suspected accomplices who escaped.

Wasim Baig, spokesman for Quetta's main hospital, confirmed the attack's toll, updating earlier accounts from officials.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, carried out just a week before Christmas.

Local television showed ambulances and security patrols racing to the scene while women and children were led out of the church's main gate.

Hospitals officials said two women were among the dead while another five women and two children were among the wounded.

A young girl in a white dress sobbed as she recounted the attack to Geo television, saying many people around her were wounded.

Aqil Anjum, who was shot in his right arm, said he heard a blast in the middle of the service, followed by heavy gunfire. "It was chaos. Bullets were hitting people inside the closed hall."

Dozens of Christians gathered outside a nearby hospital to protest against the lack of security.

Pakistan's president and other senior officials condemned the attack.

Christians make up an estimated 1.6 per cent of Pakistan's 200 million people and have long faced discrimination -- sidelined into lowly paid jobs and sometimes the target of trumped-up blasphemy charges.

Along with other religious minorities, the community has also been hit by Islamic militants over the years.

In 2016 Lahore suffered one of Pakistan's deadliest attacks during the Easter season - a suicide bomb in a park that killed more than 70 people including many children.

The bombing was later claimed by the Jamaat Ul Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban.

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